Last month, a pair of armed robbers attempted to steal a Monet painting from a Dutch museum. But Smithsonian Magazine said the heist was foiled when a bystander intervened, which caused one of the men to drop the painting as they fled the scene. Had they been successful, the painting would have been one of the thousands of other pieces of high-value art stolen annually.
Smithsonian Magazine reported that the botched art heist occurred at the Zaans Museum in Zaandam, Netherlands, on August 15. According to the publication, one of the thieves fired shots at least once, before escaping with the other on a black motorcycle.
Soon after, the museum issued a public statement to report that no one had been hurt in the altercation.
“Last Sunday morning, there was an attempted robbery at our museum,” police said in the statement. “We are relieved to say that nobody got hurt and that they were unable to steal anything. Nevertheless, we are very shocked by the incident.”
The museum further explained that the painting—De Voorzaan en de Westerhem—would undergo further investigation to ensure it had not been damaged during the attempted robbery.
The painting is reportedly worth $1.4 million.
According to Britannica, an estimated $4 to $6 billion worth of art is stolen annually. In the last decade, millions of dollars worth of paintings have been stolen from Dutch museums alone.
Art News reported that in 2012, thieves stole works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Lucian Freud from a Rotterdam museum in three minutes. The estimated value of the paintings was between $26 million and $100 million.
And during last year’s COVID lockdowns, a “priceless” Van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren museum.
Of course, museums all across the world are victims of art theft, and so are private collectors. Culture Trip stated that 52 percent of stolen art comes from homes, while another 8 percent comes from religious institutions.
When all is said and done, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 works of art are stolen each year. Thankfully, De Voorzaan en de Westerhem wasn’t one of them.
Police were able to find the motorcycle used by the men to get away, reported ArtNet News; however, the suspects remain at large. But art detective Arthur Brand believes that the police will track down the criminals soon enough.
“There may be DNA on the scooter or on the wig that may have fallen, there may also have been a skirmish,” Brand told local NH News.
“They don’t seem like professionals,” he continued. “I can name a few things that made this little chance of success. A lot of mistakes were made.”